The ‘Mighty’ Pen’s Journey From A Sword To A Swiss Knife

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It is no longer about just speaking, Brands rise to the art of listening!!

A man once walked into a McDonald’s store with the brightest smile ever in quest of the good old burger and fries. He got what he wanted, but his smile did not quite evict the same response from the McDonald staff on the other end. This when the fast food joint was running a marketing campaign that personified happiness.

It was Paul Holmes who walked into Mc Donalds that day to just not satiate his hunger but also to assess how much are Brand Promises kept. Do they cease to exist after they hit the TV screens, the outdoor hoarding or the press note issued announcing the new campaign? What does the consumer do when he feels a disconnect between what he is being promised and what he gets at the shop floor.

This 2 hour workshop by the leading US PR analyst emphasized again on the most important, but often ignored “P” of the 5 Ps of the Marketing Mix, which is its people. People drive change has never been more apt as it is in today’s time and age when all geographical and physical divides are fading and this “virtual” bridge called Web 2.0 is enabling people from diverse backgrounds to interact. This digital revolution marks the transition from one way communication to two way communication between Brands and its consumers. Paul Holmes could not stress enough on how brands, more than speaking need to excel the art of listening. He says, “Companies to a lot of extent have lost control over their reputation. It is not what you say about yourself but what other people say about you.”

True to this belief, Paul even kept the session interactive by encouraging the participants to ponder and question the evolution of Public Relations. Paul addressed the concerns of many present there about integrating digital into campaigns by asking them to halt and first assesses the brands preparedness for Conversational Marketing. Coming back to the power of the “P”, Paul said that, “The employees are the biggest advocates of a company or brand. It is they who should be first prepared to participate effectively in conversations brimming about its brands on blogs, videos and social networking sites. By asking three simple questions to the employees Paul says that a company can decide whether they are “ready” yet:

Do you understand your company values?
Do you believe the management lives by the values?
Do you think you can take decisions based on these values?

With these practical tips and anecdotes assimilated over 20 years of experience in the Public Relations domain, Paul drove the point home that in time to come transparency credibility and authenticity will become the most valuable currency. Hence the need to attract talent that is intelligent, knowledgeable and believes in dialogue rather than monologue becomes even more potent. It is this new breed of PR professionals hailing from diverse fields that will drive this change in the Marketing landscape.

And if and only if a smile is returned next time Paul Holmes walks to his “friendly” neighborhood fast food joint, will we say that all these activities have had a Real Measurement Impact.

Neemrana Fort Palace

Neemrana Fort Palace
July 2009

I have never been much of a planner, last minute huff and puff brings out the best in me. For some this might be a sour tooth but for me a way of life. My attempts to plan the shortest getaway from the city to Neemrana Fort Palace turned out to be a miserable failure. Even nature conspired against my organization skills.

It all began with “plans” to meet at 9:00am so that we could make it to the beautiful Rajasthani haveli well in time for it to shuts for visitors at 6. For those who plan to see it beyond the visiting hours must be on the other side of the haveli, inside with a room from over 888 different kinds. Nicely dressed with two rounds of breakfast we were all together by 11:00 am. Add to that another 45 minutes of discussion on whose car were we to drive on this 80 km stretch. Mine or Ashish’s, the votes were tilting towards my brand Alto which was a perfect fit for the regal place we were visiting. Bullshit!! For this crowd of 5 was getting rowdy and with my planning skills at stake we began our 3 hours drive to Alwar at 12:00 pm.

Running against time and the rains, I drove and felt completely in control of everything in life. Even at 80 km/hour it felt like breezing through thin air and then road became uneven. Some 30 kms away from our final destination and the traffic became slower and the movement almost tail to tail. And then the tail following process turned fatal. The truck in front of me passed over a boulder and my low floor clearance car could not pass. I almost died when my feet felt the boulder screeching the floor. After assessing the damage we decided to continue moving as we were almost there but took a quick U turn after the car began groaning in pain. With a quick fix and garam chai on the highway we returned to Gurgaon in the evening to head back to Neemrana the next morning in Ashish’s car. What sadistic pleasure for finally having my way irrespective of the day lost and the damage to my car.

We set off early next morning at a cruising with the Aravallis by the side much and hit Neemrana Fort Palace by noon. Through a village, the first sight of the fort with its huge doors typical of the Mughal empire was jaw dropping. Built back in 1464 AD, it is among India's oldest heritage resorts and was once the capital of the descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan III.

The rooms and the passage way is furnished with traditional Indian and colonial furniture, antiques and artifacts that gave it a rustic yet regal feel. The property is spread out to cover 25 acres/10 hectares with 10 levels that rent each room including the bathrooms with a splendid view. Leaving the humidity behind, we strolled in the palace with a pleasant breeze thanks to the numerous jharokas built into the walls of the fort. Every part, every artifact so meaningfully and aesthetically positioned. The swimming pool, the theatre (my favorite) and the open roof restaurant provided a rich and vibrant experience. We covered the entire length and breadth with staircases criss crossing the entire fort. Thanks to the meandering staircase each section of the fort provided a different view of the same part. There was the glorious sun shining on the open air theatre and a cool dingy feel in the attic. Perfect for the restless soul who hates monotony.

It was evening soon enough and our perseverance to see this majestic monument was worth the struggle of getting here. Before the gates were shut we headed back to Gurgaon with memories. With the sweet scent of rain and Paneer pakodas with chai at the highway dhabha reminded us of where we truly belong!